What's Cooking?
Outdoor Living|Backyard & Outdoor Living #50
When the weekend rolls around, there’s nothing quite like chilling out with your friends and an ice-cold brew while you fire up the outdoor cooker
Carrol Baker

In backyards across the nation, Aussies regularly celebrate friendship and family by gathering the gang together, cooking and sharing meals in true Aussie tradition. And there’s no better way to do that than with an outdoor cooker.

There are state-of-the-art six-burner cookers, woodfired ovens, smokers and, of course, complete outdoor kitchens, but by far the most popular is the barbecue. The humble backyard cooker has evolved over the decades and today there’s a plethora of different variations. The backyard chef can now dish up tasty tucker that can rival restaurant-quality food. With a hooded barbecue, you have an open fire plate and grill when the hood is lifted; pop down the hood and the barbecue becomes an oven, so you can whip up virtually anything you can make in your indoor kitchen.

With sleek curves or straight, clean lines and cutting-edge style, contemporary barbecues have lots of visual appeal and they come in myriad styles with a variety of optional extras. Many are equipped with removable warming racks, glass viewing windows, optional rotisseries, wok burners and up to six burners to cater for large family gatherings. Barbecues are getting smarter, too; some have intuitive controls to help you cook to perfection. Of course, the more inclusions, the bigger the price tag.

Deciding on the right barbecue depends on what you plan on dishing up and how many you’ll be catering for. Are you thinking large family parties, regular cook-ups with friends or small intimate get-togethers? Does the idea of a portable, free-standing or inbuilt barbecue hold more appeal? Answering these questions can help you to decide.

A barbecue can be fuelled by LPG, natural gas, charcoal bricks or electricity. Arguably the most popular option is gas as it’s inexpensive and plentiful. If you have natural gas nearby, hooking up to that prevents you running out halfway through cooking. If you like the smoky taste of charcoal, it’s cost effective and simple to use. Electric barbecues are great for small spaces — all you need is a power point nearby.

There are also other outdoor cooking methods that can wow guests at your next gathering. With a woodfired oven, no matter what you dish up, the unique mix of heat and smoke creates a scrumptious fusion of tantalising flavours. A woodfired oven may be built from clay, fire bricks or a range of sophisticated, refractory and insulating materials that create a thermal blanket trapping and retaining heat. There’s a variety of finishes including rendered, brick or stylish contemporary stainless. Watching the flames and hearing the crackle of wood entices people to gather around — it’s a great entertaining option or perfect for family pizza nights.

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